It was almost a year ago. Yaya, David’s mom, was here for a visit and it was my birthday. She agreed to keep the girls while David, myself, and Memory went for a scuba diving lesson. The weather would not permit us to get in the ocean so David and I decided to try surfing instead. The waves were high and the tide was strong. I was pulled out very far and while I am a decent swimmer, was unable to make progress on getting back to the shore. I was exhausted and the waves kept knocking me off my board. I could see David on the shore waving his hands at me but he couldn’t hear me. Terror set in. I thought that day might be my last….that there would be no more hugs and kisses for my family….that my girls would be motherless and my husband be a single parent….that I would never see my family we left in Louisiana again. My tears mixed with the salt water as I tried my best to propel myself forward.
Some other surfers saw me struggling and came to my rescue. Although they were experienced and strong, we were not making progress either. Now three of us were out there unable to get back and they were there because of me. I will never forget looking into one of their eyes and asking if we were going to make it.
By the grace of God, a lifeguard was on duty that day. It is the only time I have ever seen a lifeguard on duty at this beach or in all of Mozambique. But he was. He had a special surf board that was made for rescuing people and he did just that. It was a very uncomfortable position, but I was so happy to be laid out like a dead frog on his board as the four of us made our way back to shore. I can’t explain the shear gratitude I felt to put my feet back on sand and be in the arms of my beloved. I still remember how sweet clean water tasted after taking in so much salt water.
It has been almost a year. And for the past year, I have not been so enthusiastic about the beach and dreaded actually getting in the ocean. Seeing my kids splash around in the shallow water struck a cord of fear. Actually getting in myself was almost too much. The sounds, the salt water in my nose and eyes, and the strong waves brought be back to my birthday and set off waves of terror in my heart. (This is difficult when the beach and the ocean are about the only extracurricular activities. There are no parks, movie theaters, hiking trails, or museums…..the beach is what we have.) Really, the experience has been hard to talk about without tears in my eyes even now.
But today I was feeling brave. We went back to the beach for the first time in months. We were having lunch at the same dive shop as the year before. And the girls were too excited to wait. They bolted out towards the ocean with David and our new dog in tow. Their excitement was contagious. I wanted to get out there with them and jump the waves like my parents used to do with my sister and me as children. And I did just that. I wanted to go out past where the waves break so I could jump with the swells. It reminded me of childhood and I laughed with brazen delight. And as I did, I had a realization. The ocean taught me a life lesson. So here goes:
Sometimes the breaking waves are too big. They will knock you down and beat you up. But if you hold your breath and close your eyes and DIVE INTO THEM, they don’t knock you down. If you accept them and take them as they come, they don’t beat you up. Then you get through them to jump the wave swells with unabashed laughter. And so it is in life. This season of life has had its share of intense waves that have knocked me down and worn me out. But I have learned that I am more capable of handling them when I accept them and just dive in. And then the joy comes.
So I thank the ocean for some perspective on life as I celebrate one more trip around the sun. But mostly I thank my Redeemer God who gave me the gift of one more year.